Shop Direct plans franchise deal to bring Woolworths back from the dead
LONDON - Cash-poor in life, Woolworths has in death become rich in imitators with two new versions opening up this year. Now the owner of the Woolworths brand is believed to be looking to relaunch stores on the UK high street.
The final Woolworths closed in January after an estimated £385m debt drove the company into administration at the end of 2008. Since then two versions of the store, Wellworths and Alworths, have been opened by former staff on old Woolworths sites.
Now these could be about to be eclipsed, according to a report in The Times, as the original brand is set to be revived by Shop Direct in the form of 200 franchise stores.
In June Shop Direct, which owns the Great Universal and Kays catalogues, bought the Woolworths brand and its Ladybird range of childrenswear for £7m. Since then it has been run as an online-only brand.
Wellworths, which is headed up by a former store manager, launched in March. It was followed by Alworths, which opened three stores in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Kent and was launched by former Woolworths store development manager Andy Latham.
The launch of Alworths drew attention from Shop Direct, run by Telegraph Media Group owners the Barclay brothers. According to reports it believes Alworths, which is backed by funding from the Middle East, was too similar to Woolworths.
It may be too late to open stores on the old premises - 75% of the stores have already been bought up.
The new owners are principally discount stores such as Poundland and 99p Stores. Iceland and Tesco have also taken around 25% of Woolworths 870 stores.
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